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City Lights

Michael Miller | May 27, 2010
T here's a moment on "The Simpsons" when Mr. Burns, the tight-fisted owner of the Springfield power plant, gets a telemarketer's call promising a lifetime of happiness for $1. Removing a bill from his wallet, he muses, "One dollar for eternal happiness?" then shrugs and declares, "I'd be happier with the dollar." In that case, he probably wouldn't be an ideal customer for Keri Gee Semmelman, the Huntington Beach entrepreneur who recently started a business to help people preserve their happiest memories.
March 21, 2012
I had a college professor who kept a sign on her office door with a concise slogan: "Men are from Earth. Women are from Earth. Get used to it. " As one who has always considered the genders more alike than different, I applaud that sentiment, and I'm happy to back it up with evidence. For example, if I gave you a transcript of one of our newsroom meetings and blacked out the speakers' names, I'd venture that you couldn't tell the difference between a masculine or feminine comment.
By Michael Miller | March 28, 2012
Every so often, a local story turns into a national one — and then a local one again, as individual communities hold themselves up to the light and question whether a similar thing could happen to them. Such has been the case with the death of Trayvon Martin. Leaving one obvious factor out, the incident in Sanford, Fla. — in which an unarmed 17-year-old was shot by a neighborhood watchman who claimed self-defense — is tragic but not unusual. Every day, somewhere, people die under dubious circumstances; every day, judges and police listen to conflicting accounts of who followed whom or who attacked first.
By Michael Miller | October 30, 2012
Come back, Mitt Romney. All is forgiven. That comment you made about the binders full of women? Yes, it sounded a little off-kilter at the time, and the nation's comedians have teed off on it. But in the annals of off-the-cuff remarks politicians have made about the opposite sex, it's hardly the worst. President Obama? Yes, you got some scathing reviews for your performance in the first debate, but we all have our listless days. Justin Verlander? The Giants shelled you pretty badly in Game 1 of the World Series, but that happens in the course of a long career.
By Michael Miller | February 1, 2012
Jim Christensen will run the Surf City USA Half Marathon this weekend - which means, mathematically speaking, he will run 13.1 miles. It's a much longer distance than his finish line a few years ago, when he struggled to make it two houses down. The Huntington Beach resident has entered the half marathon three times since 2008. He's never finished first, but competition is the least of his concerns. Every time Christensen completes the final mile - in fact, every time he completes a few paces - he remembers how he conditioned himself to run by shedding 226 pounds.
April 25, 2012
A former editor of mine sometimes referred to what he called a "Hey, Martha" story. That was his term for a story with an offbeat or amusing twist. In other words, if an old couple were rocking on their front porch while the husband read the paper, he might push his glasses up from the tip of his nose and say, "Hey, Martha? You ought to check out this article... " I love "Hey, Martha" stories too, but after so many years, I can get blase about them. When you've gotten your 11th phone call about a great-grandmother turning 100 or a man running cross-country to fight muscular dystrophy, the thrill starts to wear off. The other day, though, my colleague Lauren Williams wrote a story for the Daily Pilot that truly took me for a loop.
By Michael Miller | August 1, 2012
On Friday, Jacqueline Halasz and her two children met at a bakery in Los Angeles and decorated an elaborate birthday cake, writing the recipient's name in frosting and topping it with a single candle. Afterward, they returned to Halasz's nearby apartment, where they treated themselves to a single slice. Then they stuck the rest of the cake in the freezer, where it will live indefinitely. The cake's recipient was Marc Cross, Halasz's ex-husband, who disappeared a year ago apparently while kayaking in Newport Harbor.
By Michael Miller | July 2, 2012
Dear Matt, Tom and Ricardo, You guys are very lucky. I say that because, back when we all sat at that table together in eighth-grade mechanical drawing, iPhones and YouTube hadn't been invented yet. So you can treasure your anonymity. And I'm happy to grant it to you — I've even altered your first names slightly for this column, to show you how merciful I am. Seriously, I forgive you. Yes, you made my life pretty miserable for those few weeks in 1993, but two decades is a long time.
By Michael Miller | August 31, 2011
I imagine she would still look the same. My flatmate was in her early 20s when I saw her last, and less than a decade has passed since then. When I see crowd photos of the uprising in Libya, I scan the faces to check for hers — smiling or yelling or praying under a head scarf, or even proudly going without one. It is odd, here in placid Orange County, to think I may have a friend in Libya as Moammar Kadafi's regime crumbles. More accurately, I may have a former friend there, as we have fallen out of touch.
By Michael Miller | October 9, 2012
The journalist in me has tried to write a lede for this column, and the poet has fought him tooth and nail. Just how should I begin a piece about the closing of Lee Mallory's Orange County poetry readings? With wordplay? A personal anecdote? Should I even aim for prose, or, in the spirit of Lee, should I dispense with capitals and syntax and let the words flow as they will? Yes, I think that's the way to go. And rather than shoot for a feeble imitation, I'll let Lee write the start of this column himself.
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